A Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs national telephone poll found that three-quarters of Americans 65 and older currently take an average of six prescription drugs. Despite having insurance coverage such as Medicare, the poll also found that one-third of people 65 and older experienced cost hikes in the previous 12 months and paid an average of $53 more for at least one of their drugs — though others may have increased as well.
"The perfect storm of taking more medications, having them spike in price, and living on fixed incomes means that seniors especially feel the price pain," says Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center, a nonprofit organization that provides information and assistance to people with Medicare. “Even with Medicare, many people wind up paying substantial out-of-pocket costs,” he says. “We hear stories about people mortgaging their house just to afford their medications.”
Independent pharmacies should reach out to seniors. Let your local pharmacies know that AudienceSCAN research found 14.5% of consumers who already use independent pharmacies for most of their prescriptions are aged 65 and older.
"Expensive drugs are another concern because Medicare usually covers them differently," Consumer Reports explains. "In 2016, drugs to treat hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer, for example, can cost a person on Medicare $4,000 to $12,000 for one drug alone, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a group that tracks insurance plans."
“These rising prices quickly become overwhelming when people take multiple drugs or take them for chronic conditions, meaning that they will need them for the rest of their lives,” says Baker. Even for garden-variety drugs, research shows that coverage varies dramatically. For example, out-of-pocket costs for 10 commonly prescribed brand-name medications were up to 14 times higher with certain Medicare plans than with others, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation study.
Locally owned pharmacies should tout their ability to negotiate drug costs and plans with seniors in ads. Emphasize wiggle room in newspaper (print, online, mobile or tablet) ads, where AudienceSCAN research reported 47.5% of indie drugstore users took action after reading them in the past year.
"Avoid the problem by scrutinizing your plan during open enrollment, Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, 2016," Baker advises seniors. "Look beyond the premium to see how well a plan covers your particular health conditions and medications.”